The velvet revolution: fifteen years later
Nov-22-04 Por Rosendo Fraga

In November 17 the Czech Republic commemorated the XV anniversary of the so-called 'Velvet Revolution', the juvenile demonstration led mainly by students around the streets of Prague who were repressed by the police and caused the bloodless collapse of the communist regime.

The current president of the country, Václav Klaus and his predecessor, renowned thinker, statesman, writer and former dissident who suffered the persecution and prison during said regime, Václav Havel -main leader of the democratic movement which changed the regime of then Czechoslovakia in 1989- jointly participated in the celebration beyond their current political differences and thousands of students journeyed the same path as their predecessors did fifteen years ago.

Havel remains the major figure at international level and has been organizing for some days now -inspired by what US presidents usually do- his own library with collections of books and documents gathered throughout fifty years of career to make this historical-cultural heritage transcend and be accessed by the public.

The former president thinks the library will not only remain as a collection including and analyzing very important documentation for the country's history but will also encourage education by facilitating people to access it and allowing and fostering discussions on the country's life.

Havel wants the Library building to be in downtown Prague so that it offers easy access to students and the public in general and stresses how important it is to explain youths the events unleashed under the Communist regime and the reasons for its fall.

The Library director, Václav Bartuska, stated that one of the goals of the library is to contribute to the explanation of what past dictatorships meant. He also highlighted that the Central and Eastern European countries have not succeeded in the past years in conveying their experiences in this field to the rest of the world.

With the purpose of allowing for a more universal understanding, all books and documents will be at disposal in Czech and English.

In line with this announcement, the book "Prague-Washington-Prague" written by Havel and published by historian Vilem Precan was presented in the capital of the Czech Republic.

This book contains a series of telegrams of the US Embassy in Prague between September and December 1989 in the period when the 'Velvet Revolution' took place.

Havel expressed he had been reluctant to opening his own library but in the past months he finally accepted the idea on grounds that as years went by -he is 68 now- he has become aware that he had so much documentation and correspondence kept in boxes since the '50s like the ones he kept with the great Czech poets, some of whom had criticized his first poems, several projects and his presidency, which was unfortunately not used and was even lost.

The library director said that former President George Bush contributed to Havel's decision of organizing his own library and the opening of the Clinton's Library in November 18 with the presence of current President George W. Bush, showing the importance this type of initiative may have.

His wife, Dagmar, is helping organize the library as well as the government's Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzemberg and renowned sociologist Miloslav Petrusek.

For now, the library only has two employees and is located on Vorsilska Street in Prague, where Havel has his offices. It is expected to be working in two years' time and will also serve as stage for conferences and seminars. The project's funding will be requested to Czech companies and not to international organizations.

From Argentina, it is interesting to reflect upon the coexistence of former presidents taking the example and organizing their books, documents and papers as former President Frondizi tried to do at the Centro de Estudios Nacionales. With this initiative, Havel provides another valuable contribution.

Rosendo Fraga

Director of Centro de Estudios Nueva Mayoría

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